Why the President may have fired his Chief of Staff

Mon, 16 Feb 2015 Source: Cudjoe, Franklin

and what the new one could do to make the office a serious one.

Franklin Cudjoe

Perhaps IMANI's 2014 citation of the worst public office being that of the Chief of Staff's played a significant role in the President axing the head of his staff over the weekend. The utter confusion that office created led to the rather dignified exit of the President's Executive Secretary, Dr. Raymond Atuguba and the famed BBC Anchor and head of communications at the Presidency, Ben Dotse Malor. The President's policy guru and an affable listener, Dr. Sulley Gariba had been sent away as Ghana's High Commissioner in Canada a year before the mess metamorphosed . These men least expected things to turn this sour.

Our own reflection over the contribution of the public sector to Ghana's development has been one of disappointment as we have witnessed the slowest public reform efforts over the last decade. This has become worse with the incredible amount of brazen scandals within some public institutions. In spite of the overwhelming crisis of confidence, some public institutions are struggling to live up to their mandate and values, hence the need to recognize and applaud them for providing leadership. We did name the top five.

Unfortunately the Chief of Staff's office slowed down the reform effort mentioned earlier. This is how;

Over the last two years, this office has been reputably ineffective and profusely wasteful. Last year, the Office of the Chief of Staff alone overspent its budget by about Ghc41 million ($ 13m) on items that are not clear to the public. The Chief of Staff gives orders and counter orders which played out comically in public a few times making a mockery of what is expected of a well coordinated office. A Chief of Staff's office should ordinarily be interested in shoring up the capabilities and capacities of the human resources the Presidency has to work with. He must of course be mindful of party political interests. However, he should ensure that the latter does not unduly affect the fortunes of the country. Demonstrably, the former Food and Drugs Chief had been a cancerous failure, reversing almost all the important universally acclaimed professionalism his board and other diligent staff of the FDA had brought to bear on the institution. To have allowed the appointment of same to a very important institution like COCOBOD was not only the worst crime committed in managerial and financial science, it was like thrusting a hot ironed knife into the hearts of cocoa farmers and investors. A year on at COCOBOD, the fears of many cocoa watchers has been confirmed through the revealing Cocoa documentary by Multimedia's Joy FM of simply bad administration.

The constitution of various boards in this country has been severely undermined by the principle of ensuring differing capabilities on boards to outright mockery of the process by fitting many square pegs in round holes. The results have not been surprising. To have heard and witnessed the shameful and potentially criminal justification of obscene travel allowances for most board members of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority when the airport elevators are for most of the year functionally inactive was worrying. The flooding of important grounds at the Airport was shameful for a 'gateway' to West Africa. The GCAA's board most certainly must have made it impossible for the Director –General of the GCAA to work in order to achieve his otherwise professional productivity. Air-Commodore (Rtd.) Memphey who was appointed Director-General of the GCAA in 2009, is credited with overseeing the transformation and growth of the aviation industry over the past five years. The creation of a Power Ministry is another wasteful venture occasioned by a complete disillusion from a self-imposed chaos in the energy sector.

The Chief of Staff seems to have turned the Presidency into a hub for negotiating deals that never get passed in parliament or when they are sent to parliament, they are passed at the frightening speed of light. Out of 23 oil contracts, only 7 have been published by the government. As Parliament has become politically unaccountable to Ghanaians on value for money projects introduced by the Executive, the Chief of Staff should be filling the gap.

What the New Chief of Staff can do to redeem the image of the Office.

The newly appointed Chief of Staff, Mr. Julius Debrah, who recently was the Eastern Regional Minister, then Local Government Minister until his new post sounds and feel like a dutiful man indeed. His public conduct has been truly exemplar. He needs to up his ante for his new role though. Here are a few pieces of advice he'd need to consider.

To redeem the office's dormant and least inspirational image, Mr. Debrah should assemble all experts to advice the governments on all its projects to properly evaluate them. On the issue of value-for-money, the 2014 budget statement read "Government takes a very serious view of Value-for-Money and transparent means for it's contracting for projects and services that involve the use of public funds". IMANI on that note proposed that government should "Declare a moratorium on all the current projects. The government should list all the projects they are currently funding and submit them to a "Value for Money" review; value for money audits shouldn't take more than 3 months to be completed. The 2015 budget was however very quiet on the value-for-money initiative in 2014. This is where the Chief Of Staff's leadership can be felt. It is heart-wrenching to note that the Tamale Airport was claimed to have been constructed at the cost of $100m (through an opaque procurement procedure) and a mere refurbishment of the Kumasi Airport Runway could swallow $29m of our taxes (yet again through an opaque procurement procedure) when we know that Ethiopia is building from scratch three very modern airports for a total of $64m. We have verified all competing costs. We acknowledge the differences in good governance practices in Ghana and Ethiopia, with the latter playing catch up. However, on value for money contracts, Ethiopia is definitely miles ahead, reason it is becoming the industrial hub for Africa building the biggest shoe factories and others with discernible Chinese Money.

It is important to understand that whilst for most strategic projects the requisite expertise may be spread across multiple ministries, departments and agencies, the Chief of Staff must see to it that the Cabinet Office is strengthened through a thorough coordination of expertise across the civil service and above all he must have the gravitas and power to keep the "Better Ghana project" of the government on course instead of merely existing.

For a complete list of IMANI's 2014 Best and Worst Public Sector Leaders in Ghana, please see http://imanighana.com/imanis-2014-best-worst-public-sector-institutions-ghana/

Franklin Cudjoe is Founding President and CEO of IMANI. Cudjoe returned to Ghana on February 14 after honouring an invitation from the Australian Government as a Special Visitor to its crucial parts that make it the 12th largest economy in the world. He was away for nearly two weeks.

Columnist: Cudjoe, Franklin